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austen ranking 1

Well, readers, it's that time again. It's time to talk Austen. We've already established where I've failed in my Austen adaptation viewership (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, nearly every adaptation pre-1970), which leaves us with roughly 25 adaptations to rank.

I'm ready. Are you ready?

Let's begin.

6.6 Lost in Austen26. LOST IN AUSTEN 
Directed by Dan Zeff
(2008)

Jane marries Mr. Collins. Darcy ends up with someone besides Elizabeth. Gemma Arterton (an excellent casting choice for Lizzy) is barely on screen. The very attractive Elliot Cowan somehow manages to look unattractive as Darcy. I hate this movie very much. That is all.

 

6.6 Scents and Sensibility25. SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY
Directed by Brian Brough
(2011)

This movie is decidedly not great, but it does inexplicably have magic, healing lotion. I'm in favor of magic lotion that cures disease, and I would like the recipe, thank you (take that, angry thyroid!). SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY is fluffy and enjoyable, if a little bit silly.

 

6.6 From Prada to Nada24. FROM PRADA TO NADA
Directed by Angel Gracia
(2011)

I love the idea of a Latina take on Jane Austen, but this one falls a bit flat. There are a few too many stereotypes and clichés, and the script could have used some work. Overall, it’s predictable, lighthearted rom-com fare and an okayish effort at a transcultural adaptation.

 

6.6 Aisha23. AISHA
Directed by Rajshree Ojha
(2010)

The production quality of AISHA is better than that of KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN, but it lacks the spark of BRIDE AND PREJUDICE. EMMA adaptations are tricky because the main character is so hard to capture – both likeable and frustrating – and this Emma solidly falls in the frustrating category. Austen famously described Emma as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” but for me at least, AISHA takes that a little too far.

Even though I saw this movie only a couple of years ago I remember very little else about it, which is not a great argument in its favor. I think Aisha was tall? She maybe goes to the beach with her friends as some point?

 

6.6 Mansfield Park22. Every Austen Adaptation Made for TV in the 70s and 80s

I have watched them all, and I can confidently say that these are ... adequate. They are extremely faithful to the original plots, sometimes at the expense of visuals, music, acting, washed hair, and cinematic timing. In short, they are a little bit dull. Of the lot, however, the 1980 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the 1983 MANSFIELD PARK are the best.

 

06.6 Emma9621. EMMA
Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence
(1996)

I love Kate Beckinsale. The woman is aging backwards, and I’d consider murder to have skin like hers (maybe she has access to magic healing lotion? Discuss). BUT I do not love her as Emma Woodhouse. Where Gwyneth Paltrow manages to make Emma charming in all of her selfishness and absurdity, I just can’t like this Miss Woodhouse.

Note: This is based on my totally unanalyzed gut reaction to the film, and critics completely disagreed with me. I've tried to be objective in the rest of my rankings, but I'm probably wrong on this one. Insert shrugging emoji here.

 

africa

Sometimes life seems full of little annoyances; forgot to charge the phone, battery in the car key fob runs out, the microwave is on the fritz. It is easy to let the little things get us down and to forget the wonders that we enjoy every day.  A sure cure for our “first world” woes is to read about people who live with much less every day. I have recently read three books set in Africa that show what life is like for children in some of the world’s poorest countries. Despite the lack of basic comforts—sufficient food, clean water, indoor plumbing—they bravely push on, clinging to hope for a better life. All three books are well written and would be great to share with older children who might need their own healthy dose of perspective. 

6.1 Aumas Long RunAUMA’S LONG RUN
By Eucabeth A. Odhiambo
(2017) 

Auma lives in a small village in Kenya. Her father works in Nairobi and makes enough money that she and her siblings can attend school. Then one day her father comes home feeling ill.  When, after weeks he only gets worse, Auma is afraid that he has the “new” sickness that has taken the life of so many in her village. This is a sobering, but inspiring, look at the fate of many children in Africa who have been left to fend for themselves because of the AIDS epidemic. 

 

6.1 The Red PencilTHE RED PENCIL
By Andrea Pinkney
(2014)

Amira lives in a farm town in Darfur and helps her mother care for their farm animals and her younger siblings. One day, the Janjaweed come burn her town and kill her father. She must flee with her family to a refugee camp. Although the camp is crowded and the food and living conditions are horrible, Amira gets her first chance to learn to read and write. This story is written in crystalline free verse which allows Pinkney to show the reader only brief flashes of disturbing images, and linger on descriptions of life on Amira's farm and in the camp. The story is illustrated with black and white drawings, done in a child-like hand, that show how Amira sees her world as she draws with her cherished red pencil.  

 

6.1 A Long Walk to WaterA LONG WALK TO WATER
By Linda Sue Park
(2009)

This historical novel based on a true story follows the lives of two children from Sudan. In alternating chapters the reader watches Salva, who in 1985 flees civil war to become one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan, and Nya, who in 2009 spends eight hours a day walking to and from a pond to get water for her family. Salva ends up spending a decade in various refugee camps and sees terrible war atrocities. Nya sees her little sister get sick from contaminated water during the dry season when the pond becomes muddy. Both of their stories come together in a wonderful and hopeful ending.

 

Worst Moms

Not to brag, but I won the cosmic lottery when it comes to moms. My mom is the actual best mother in the history of the known universe. But even with such cause to celebrate her magnificence, I find the Hallmarky saccharine brand of hoopla just, well, gross. If you’re as #done with consumerist schmaltz as I am and looking for a new angle of mother appreciation (or want to feel better about your own mothering), check out these books featuring my picks for top five worst moms in literature:

5.30 Pride and Prejudice5) Mrs. Bennet

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
By Jane Austen
(1813)

Trying  to get five daughters married off before your husband dies and leaves you all penniless would be enough stress to drive anyone to the brink, and I sympathize, truly, but not enough to overlook the hot mess of a mother that is Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet lacks tact, maturity, and indeed any sense of shame. It’s not like she doesn’t know how to behave, she just doesn’t much care. You think she would, you know, being so worried about her daughters’ futures, but alas, no such luck.

Yikes Level: PERMANENT HAND-SHAPED BRUISE ON MY FOREHEAD FROM FACEPALMING

 

5.30 A Game of Thrones4) Cersei Lannister

SONG OF ICE AND FIRE SERIES (Game of Thrones)
By George R.R. Martin
(1996 - present)

In this series, bad dads outnumber the bad moms by a LOT, but what few there are sure go for gold. First there’s Cersei, the queen, a spoiled, entitled, scheming woman who cares for no one but her children. Unfortunately that motherly love doesn’t do much good in the way of actual parenting; her eldest son is, in a word, monstrous. Maybe he’s born that way or maybe it’s parenting, but we’ll never know, since Cersei refuses to think ill of her precious princeling.

Yikes Level: LOSE YOUR VOICE SCREAMING “SHAME!”

 

5.30 Carrie3) Margaret White

CARRIE
By Stephen King
(1974)

The sins of the fathers – or mother in this case – don’t rest upon the child’s head but they sure can make an impact. Margaret is a glaring advertisement for therapy and forgiving yourself. Consumed with guilt after becoming pregnant at age 17, Margaret takes everything to the fanatic extreme – with a capital F E. Poor Carrie is basically set up for failure between her mother’s abuse and bullying at school.

Yikes Level: ALL THE YIKES

 

5.30 Coraline2) The Other Mother

CORALINE
By Neil Gaiman
(2002)

No, I’m not mom-shaming Coraline’s actual mother. The “other mother” through the portal in the wall is the one you should watch out for. That manipulative, murderous, child-snatching monster is the stuff of nightmares.

Yikes Level: MOM CAN I SLEEP IN YOUR ROOM TONIGHT

 

5.30 Harry Potter1) Petunia Dursley

HARRY POTTER SERIES
By J. K. Rowling
(1997-2007)

Petunia Dursely, nee Evans, would make this list for her loving but appalling parenting of her own son, but what secures her the top spot on this list is her neglect of Harry. There’s no excuse to treat a child like that, period, and when you’re spoiling your own son to disgusting excess in the very same house, that compounds the horribleness by the power of hypocrisy. If you can’t put aside old offences when your newly orphaned infant nephew, the child of your only, once-cherished sister arrives at your doorstep, are you even human?

Yikes Level: THE DEVIL HIMSELF WOULD CRY

 

Honorable Mentions: Queen Gertrude, HAMLET;  Lysa Arryn, SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (GAME OF THRONES) SERIES; “Evil Step-Mother”, (looking at you, fairy tales!).  A moment of silence please for all the Cinderellas , Snow Whites, and others in all their incarnations who’ve suffered at the hands of the dreaded “ Evil Step-mother”.

Phew! What a list. Stay tuned for next month, when I’ll be putting literature’s dads on blast.

Blogger’s Note: Hopefully I’ve been clear in my writing that this post is meant to be humorous, and not at all suggesting that abuse in any form is funny. The reality is that Mother’s Day isn’t a happy occasion for everyone. Many of us in our human family do suffer at the hands of those that should love and care for them best. Some of us have lost mothers. To all of us, no matter our situation, I hope we all can think of a person or two who have given motherly care to us through the years, no matter what name or label applies.

 scottish mysteries

It could be because I miss living in Scotland, but I've been drawn to books with Scottish narrators lately, and since I'm a mystery fan, I've found myself listening to Scottish mysteries. Whether you like the cozy stories or tough detectives, there's a series here for every mystery reader.

 

5.25 Death of a GossipDEATH OF A GOSSIP
by M.C. Beaton
1985

Constable Hamish MacBeth investigates the murder of Lady Jane Hamilton who has a nasty habit of digging up dirt on the residents and guests of Lochdubh. 

 

5.25 Raven BlackRAVEN BLACK
by Ann Cleeves
2006

When the body of a teenage girl turns up on the Shetland Islands, Inspector Jimmy Perez launches an investigation into the killing, taking him into the heart of sinister secrets from the past. 

 

5.25 The Sunday Philosphy ClubTHE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB
by Alexander McCall Smith
2004

When Isabel Dalhousie witnesses the death of a young man falling from the balcony of the Edinburgh concert hall, she decides to take it upon herself to solve the murder. 

 

5.25 Resurrection MenRESURRECTION MEN
by Ian Rankin
(2001)

Sent to a rehabilitation school after a serious mistake, Inspector John Rebus discovers that his classmates are plotting a drug heist and might be connected to Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke's investigation to an art dealer's murder. 

 

5.25 A Wee Murder in My ShopWEE MURDER IN MY SHOP
by Fran Stewart
(2015)

While searching for hidden treasures in the Scottish Highlands, shop owner Peggy Winn purchases an old tartan shawl that unexpectedly comes with the ghost of a 14th-century Scotsman, who, once she returns to Vermont, helps her discover who murdered her ex-boyfriend.

 

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